International data week closes on a high note

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

The International Data Week, hosted for the first time in Africa and Botswana in particular, has been roundly praised as an African success story.

International Data Week 2018 (IDW 2018) was held on 5-8 November 2018 in here at the Gaborone international Conference Centre, (GICC) and was hosted by the Botswana Open Science and Open Data Forum. The forum brought together data scientists, researchers, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, policymakers and data stewards from all disciplines and geographies across the globe. Organisers were expecting about 500 delegate s but the 

Co-organized by the ISC World Data System (WDS), the ISC Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), the Research Data Alliance (RDA), University of Botswana (UoB) and the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), IDW 2018 combines the 12th RDA Plenary Meeting, the bi-annual meeting of the research data community, and SciDataCon 2018, the scientific conference addressing the frontiers of data in research. To a greater degree than at IDW 2016 in Denver, Colorado, the events will be integrated, such that each day will feature an inspiring and engaging range of activities.

In a hyper-connected world where the Internet is pervasive and web technologies are driving major changes in our lives, research has become more than ever before digital and international. With the theme of ‘The Digital Frontiers of Global Science’, this landmark event will be a rich week of science and data, featuring world renowned keynote speakers, plenary panels and discussions, and the presentation of high quality research and practical working sessions for international collaborations.  Focus topics will include: Research issues in a global and digital age, Applications, progress and challenges of data intensive research and Data infrastructure and enabling practices for international and collaborative research

All areas of research are in scope, including the social sciences, humanities, and business and management sciences. Similarly, the applications of data outside of research will also be considered.  

Speakers at the conference included, but not limited to: His Excellency President Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana, who gave the keynote and opening speech.  Rob Adam South African Radio Astronomy Observatory and Square Kilometre Array, He was appointed Director of the South African Square Kilometre Array Radio Telescope project in January 2016.

Until recently Rob held the position of Group Executive: Nuclear at the Aveng Group. Prior to joining Aveng, Rob was Chief Executive Officer of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa).

Phaik Yeong Cheah from Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unity, Dr Phaik Yeong Cheah (BPharm, MSc (Bioethics), PhD) is an Associate Professor at University of Oxford. Since 2015, she has been the Head of Bioethics & Engagement at the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) based in Bangkok, Thailand. She is also the coordinator of MORU’s Data Access Committee.

Another distinguished speaker in attendance was, Ian Foster from Argonne National Laboratory, Ian Foster is Distinguished Fellow and Director of the Data Science and Learning Division at Argonne National Laboratory. He is also the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor of Computer Science at the University of Chicago. Ian received a BSc (Hons I) degree from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, and a PhD from Imperial College, United Kingdom, both in computer science. His research deals with distributed, parallel, and data-intensive computing technologies, and innovative applications of those technologies to scientific problems in such domains as materials science, climate change, and biomedicine.

Simeon Materechera of North West University, Professor Materechera is the Director of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Center at the Mafikeng campus of the North West University. He oversees the teaching and research activities of IKS at the University and is involved in supervision and mentoring of postgraduate students. His career has involved networking activities that led to setting up of collaborations with peers, organizations and institutions involved with research, teaching and learning, and, community engagement.  

From Botswana, came our own Joy Phumaphi from the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, Joy Phumaphi is the Executive Secretary of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance. She served as a member of the UNSG’s High-Level Panel on the Global Response to Health Crises and the Chair of the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, as well as serving as co-Chair of the Independent Expert Review Group for Every Woman Every Child, reporting annually to the UNSG on developing country-level progress on Women’s and Children’s health. She served as Member of Parliament in Botswana, holding portfolio responsibility in the cabinet, first for Lands and Housing (1995-1999), and then for Health (1999-2003). She later joined the WHO as Assistant Director General for Family and Community Health (2003-2007). She has served as Vice President for Human Development at the World Bank (2007-2009). Joy has served on a number of commissions and expert groups and sits on the Board of several international non-profit organizations working on global health.

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